The fear of a growing world filled with "Glassholes" -- of people using dehumanizing wearable computing gadgets to carelessly invade the privacy of those around them while obnoxiously tuning them out -- is not based on reality. But people think it is, based on the hype and press.
A viral news report about a man kicked out of a restaurant, the guy doing prank videos in a mall and the writer experimenting with being a Glasshole and writing about it -- these are all based on the fear of the technology, not the usage of technology itself.
The restaurant story was about a restaurant manager who kicked out a customer who was minding his own business. They feared that he would somehow invade the privacy of other customers – more than their own encouraging of all customers to take camera phone pictures. They feared he would invade their privacy. He didn't actually do it.
The mall guy was an actor or a prankster acting out rude behavior. He wasn't an actual user being rude.
The Esquire experiment was just a writer being obnoxious for the sake of being obnoxious -- it wasn't a report about a regular user being obnoxious.
Journalists, comedians and others are fabricating the Glasshole myth out of nothing but their own fears and anxieties -- and the public’s.
Is it more of a privacy invasion to have a camera on your glasses than on your phone? No, in fact, it’s not. It's easier and less obvious to take pictures secretly with the cameras on a smartphone than with Google Glass.
And is Glass really dehumanizing? Critics imagine a parent ignoring their child while they interact with someone else via glass. But they don't imagine interacting with one's child via Glass while waiting for a flight at some far-away airport. Glass can instantly translate both spoken and written foreign languages. Does that connect or separate us as humans?
Besides, lots of things are dehumanizing. Many people find packaged junk food, fluorescent lights and TV dehumanizing. But they don't vilify people for using them.
The fact is that Google Glass is like a smartphone “lite.” One of its many benefits is that it reduces the habit, now socially acceptable, of constantly checking one’s smartphone every 30 minutes to see if there are new messages or updates. Google Glass users have the luxury of spending less time with their faces in their phones, and more time paying attention to the world around them, secure in the knowledge that if something important does happen, they’ll be gently and subtly informed about it.
Google Glass users aren’t “plugged into the machine” all day. The device is turned off 99% of the time because having it on constantly is both unappealing and battery-draining.
Sure, Google Glass isn’t for everybody. Lots of people will choose Glass and other wearable devices and many others won’t. It’s just another consumer electronics choice.
But let’s not vilify people and let irrational fears run wild based on nothing but ill-defined anxieties about technology and the future.
The fact is that Glassholes are imaginary.